We’re at the midway point of the NFL season, which means it’s going to be dominated by this storyline over the next while:
One NFL team who has won just three games at this stage is going to make the postseason. Who that is, is anyone’s guess, but there are leading contenders.
Right now, feasibly, we’ve got the Chargers; Raiders; Steelers; Lions and Rams.
That’s a lot of really highly-thought of teams – and the Raiders. So to suggest all but one of them could miss the playoffs means that week 9 is a real make-or-break game on the schedule.
Who’s it going to be? I suppose there’s only one way to find out.
Move the pile with Paddypower.com’s NFL odds
Detroit Lions (+2.5) @ Oakland Raiders – 5/6
While you can obviously make the case, given the records, that these teams are evenly-matched – they’re really not.
The one thing that Oakland have thrived on is riding a fresh rookie running back into the ground, while Detroit have flung the ball against everyone and anyone.
If that trend continues, and it should, Oakland are playing a team who are dead last in passing yards conceded per game, while Detroit are facing a team whose strength is stopping the run.
One of these gameplans works and the other doesn’t. Now, of course, we could all be sitting here as Oakland adjust their approach.
But you have to ask yourself – who is more likely to make a game-winning adjustment – Matt Patricia, the disciple of Bill Belichick, or the bloke from the Corona hotline ads?
Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers (-3.5) – 10/11
I saw this line earlier in the week and thought ‘that’s probably fair’ as I believed the game was in Nashville.
Carolina were shut down last week and in embarrassing fashion. But context is important and you need to understand one thing: Christian McCaffrey still a baller.
Kyle Allen went from being the saviour of the Panthers franchise to Cam Newton’s projected shoe-shiner in the space of a week and that’s just not feasible really.
This Tennessee unit have started to fall back on Ryan Tannehill to get things done and while that’s a positive move for the franchise in the short-term, he’s as prone to huge mistakes as anyone else – meaning he’ll be eyeing up his target for too long, with the best linebacker in football spying his every move.
New England Patriots (-3.0) @ Baltimore Ravens – 10/11
Bill Belichick’s record against young quarterbacks is untouchable. Forget where this game is on. Forget who it’s against. This game will come down to Lamar Jackson needing to make plays against the best defence in football, because you know Brady is putting up points.
Now, let’s have a look at a recent example – Sam Darnold.
While the Ravens are infinitely more talented than the Jets are, their offensive lines block similarly and their running backs are equally as good at blitz pick-ups.
Bill is going to send that zero blitz again, with a container on either side. Lamar Jackson has a habit of running backwards on blitzes to escape them. He has never faced an A-gap pressure with contain on the backend this season like the one he’s about to face against this defence.
It’s time to go to the well again.